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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: This history of cognitive neuroscience describes the brain functions of perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, and motor system over the past 150 years. It is a follow-up to the authors' previous book, Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (Wiley-Blackwell, 2003).
Purpose: The authors "examine the claims that particular synaptic networks or clusters of synaptic networks in the brain can see (chapter 1), attend (chapter 2), remember (chapter 3), understand, think and translate thought into speech (chapter 4), and have emotions (chapter 5)" in order to "illuminate the historical development of these ideas and how they have been incorporated into the accepted jargon of mainstream cognitive neuroscience by studying the experiments whose interpretation gave rise to them."
Audience: The intended audience includes neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers and general readers. M.R. Bennett is a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sydney and is past president of the Australian Neuroscience Society. P.M.S. Hacker is an emeritus research fellow at St. John's College in Oxford who has published books and articles on the philosophy of mind and language.
Features: The book traces the historical foundations of basic brain functions including perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, and motor action. For example, the authors look at perception and sensation from Hemholtz (late 19th century) through Singer (late 20th century). The understanding of visual illusions is seen through the experiments of gestalt theorists (Wertheimer, Koffka, Kohler), cortical neuron researchers (Hubel, Wiesel), and unconscious hypothesis formation theorists (Marr, Treisman), to name a few. The topic of attention begins with the work of Helmholtz in 1894 and ends with Corbetta and colleagues who, in 1991, looked at brain activity via PET scans. The other chapters provide excellent histories of neuropsychological functioning in their specific areas as well. The book does well in discussing how landmark research results significantly impacted the field. The last chapter is particularly interesting, especially the discussion of the mereological fallacy. The book includes a detailed table of contents, numerous figures which elucidate the text, and colorful plates (center of book). To fully appreciate this book, readers need an extensive background in cognitive neuroscience and/or neuropsychology.
Assessment: This book is fairly comprehensive in its treatment of the history of the most basic brain functions in cognitive neuroscience over the past 150 years. The authors are experts in cognitive neuroscience and discuss the landmark experiments which have significantly influenced the field. However, without a thorough background in neuroscience and/or neuropsychology, readers can easily get lost. For individuals with this background, it is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge.